In California I had an 8 x 8 shed that was unheated and had no electricity. For heat — in winter in those mountains it got down below freezing often — I had a space heater that looked a little like a robot from Star Wars. I really loved that shed. It felt like a world apart from my house, my job, everything “normal.” I ONLY painted in there.
Now I have a room. It’s larger than my art shed, but it’s taken a while for me to get into the swing of using it as a studio.
Yesterday my friends came over for a COVID-19 style tea party in which everyone sits six feet apart and brings their own beverage. We had a GREAT time. My next door neighbor brought us little bouquets of — imagine! — Edelweiss set off by delphiniums.
After we’d laughed and talked for a couple of hours, they wanted to come inside to see the new paintings. I engineered the dogs so they would not molest us and let my friends in the front door. My first thought was funky. “Shit, COVID!” I basically live in such a way that I don’t deal with it. But there we all were.
“We’re not sick, are we?” I said. And masks went up. One of my friends, an expert seamstress who, at the beginning of this in March and April, made hundreds of masks for our hospitals and clinics, had a fancy new mask design.
They followed me through my not-very-clean house to the back room — my “studio” which is really a converted porch — and I said, “Welcome to my atelier!” I have a curtain hanging in the doorway to keep the dust out. I pulled it back with a flourish.
I love showing my paintings. I love hearing people talk about them and hearing what they see. It was a real treat for me. As we stood talking, I realized that the room has finally become my studio.
But, it’s a lot of other things, too. This house has NO storage, so my “studio” holds The Examined Life and a few other treasures. It also becomes a second guest room if needed. Over these six years it’s evolved into something that resembles a room-sized medicine bundle with treasures from various parts of my life, including some of the first work I made in my Descanso Art Shed. The old skis I found at the flea market that are like the skis I had in the 80s are in there beside the painting of Garnet Peak in the snow the winter after the Cedar fire. The big, red metal tool box that holds tools and acrylics has a story from a moment in 1984 when I’d returned from China, my brother was living with us, and the two of us had a terrible fight over whether gold paint went on red. In China it does, all the time. I’d bought the tool box at a yard sale and was about to hit it randomly with spray paint. My brother was absurdly, violently, opposed to it — that’s a story for another time (or never).
On the wall is a water bag from a bedouin in Saudi Arabia, brought back to me by my once-upon-a-time boyfriend who taught in Riyadh for a year. There’s a photo of the Dalai Lama given me by a Brazilian woman I met in Milan Everything on the walls is some kind of talisman. ❤
Here it is.